02 June, 2013

2013 Gunnison Growler

Smiling for reasons unknown
Memorial Day Weekend!  My teammate Kevin and I (two-thirds of the homey trinity) are going to check our physiological mettle in Gunnison, Colorado a town next to one of the most magical towns of all time-Crested Butte.  The race?  The Gunnison Growler!  Who in their right mind would want to do an incredibly challenging course, with 8,800 feet of climbing spread out over 68 miles (total)?  I guess that would be us.

A pre-night ritual.

Well, as a seasoned racer (ha!), there's a little bit of superstition and OCD that goes into supervising the race-worthiness of one's steed (physical maintenance) and to pack accordingly (I've forgotten to pack my helmet and shoes but not at the same time!).  You itemize the following and make sure it's cleaned and serviceable the night before.  Skinsuit or two piece?  Well the two piecer so's I can throw in some gel shots and other sundry nutritious items.  Speaking of which, I talked to Drew (Karen's brah) about helpful nutritious tidbits on what he was packing last year when he raced this event and what I came away with in that conversation was to get the Heed electrolyte tablets and to run two water bottles with said supplement in each bottle.   Which cold weather component gets to ride shotgun in my hooptie?  Well, since the course starts at 7,700 feet and it's cold in the mornings (35° F) I'll bring the knee warmers yet forgo the armwarmers for my UV arm protectors.  Also getting packed is the tank top base layer to give me a smidge of heat retaining qualities (as well as wicking).  It's going to be sunny so I'll bust out my roadie headgear and wear a visor underneath my road helmet.  Which type of socks to bring:  my super thin 3/4 length NG socks or the Woolie Boolies?  Packed my Woolie Boolies 3/4 length socks (a thoughtful gift from Karen) for much needed cushioning from standing and pedaling in unforgiving, carbon fiber soles on my Shimanos; but I'll also pack my compression socks for recovery purposes.  Full finger or 3/4 length gloves?  Full fingers definitely for much needed protection on a LONG course as opposed to a 27 mile XC course.  Should I bring the CamelBak?  Nope, there are adequately staffed and knowledgeable staff at strategically located Aid Stations (which may I add they were amazingly friendly and ultra-helpful).  My cycling gear's good but of course I forget to pack pants when the evenings get cold in Crested Butte.  Oh well.

The ride out.

As with all my friends we spend it talking, listening to music, and doing an inordinate amount of giggling.  We do racer check-in in downtown Gunnison and we're off to my awesomely generous and avuncular homeskillet David's (house).

The race.

My teammate Kevin
We crash at David's place in Almont, CO which is about 30 minutes away but with the road construction it takes longer.  David is an extremely friendly and generous soul, whom we thank for letting us crash at his house.  Thank you David.  So on race morning, we spent time unwisely and we're screaming out of his house on gravelly roads and I'm doing my impersonation of Satan's coachman.  Needless to say we make it with 5 minutes to spare and I can't find my Woolie Boolies and after an unbecoming OCD episode I don the black, compression socks only a middle school boy athlete or a septuagenarian would find aesthetically pleasing.  We line up and both barrels of the shotgun's fired and we're off on a rolling, 5-mile, neutral start to Hartman Rocks. The racers go out briskly and we're doing a road race start on mountain bikes.  Not to get outdone I tell Kevin let's move to front, so we take off and noodle our way to the front of the pack, where we're lined up about 10 racers back.  Another wave surges to the front and we're about at the last third.  I bide my time to safely go to the outside of the pack where I accelerate and put myself on the pole position and that's where I ride and eventually slide back to third position.  Kinda cool.  Representing Natural Grocer's and Airborne!

The holeshot.

Actually, it's the lack thereof.  Once the sheriff's vehicle pulled off it's hammer time!  Of course the first part of the race is a super steep, gnarly, gravelly fired road where if you stood your rear tire'd break traction.  I chose not to put myself in the red to keep my position and the racers who were more alpha than me diplayed their testosterone (as well as estrogen) as I slid further back into my cohorts of (lack of) fitness.

First lap (aka ouch!).  3h 29 minutes.

It's fast, it's technical, it's flowey, and I'm riding 98 percent of this sick singletrack.  I swear we're hitting these obstacles like we've all done this before and the risk of failure can be physical damage!  One's safety is completely out the window because to fall back is a major no-no, so keeping your position is what you err on and to advance, well that's tantamount to racing.  The strategy in mountain bike racing, especially if there are so many bi-pedal hominids pedaling their bicycles (after eating hominy) on the trail, is to be in the leading group.  If that's not possible, save energy by mentally drafting in packs, then leapfrog yourself to the next pack of riders ahead of you.  Energetically speaking, it's a wash, but the mental draft gives you the perceived illusion that you're being economical with your kilocalories coupled with the allusion of being a thoroughbred.  I make mental notes of landmarks to help with time management and energetics (i.e. the rest stops, the sustained climbs, the anaerobic climbs-all of them!- the killer, G'd out downhills..etc.).  First lap done in 3 and a half hours.  Yikes!  Looks like a sub-7h event's not in the cards today...

Second lap.  Stay focused! Twenty-one minutes slower than the first!

I knew my legs would hold out but it would not equal the first lap laying down of watts.  Pain settled in nicely in-between my shoulder blades, my left knee's getting wonky, my triceps, my medialises, and oddly, my thumbs with all the shifting I've been doing.  First time my hamstring and calves didn't have pain.  I've been drinking and eating but the topography of this course is nothing I've experienced (the Firecracker gots nothing on this one!) before so my calories are being used up at a nearly uncontrollable rate leaving me unfocused on the terrain.  Wasn't it a lap ago these technical features where a novel, easily doable technical, smile inducing challenge?  Yes I walked on the stuff I used to ride.  Yes I found every aberrant landscape feature (size independent) and when that topographical nuisance hit my pedal or whenever I exhibited a profound display of asynchronisity (lack of unweighting, a lost ability to stutter pedal through derailleur ripping rocks, or pre-shifting, I felt like a lobster shifting to flow over technical terrain for example) that transgression translated itself with the precision of a laser beam or shotgun blast (whichever was crueler, as opposed to a cruller which is delicious actually!) into that part of my body which atrophied and was in sharp pain.  Instantaneously.  It should be called the Gr-ou(ch)-ler...Not only that but I over cooked switchbacks and high curbed tight, downhill switchbacks.  The grand prize of unfocusedness was crashing on a sandy berm where my front tire washed.   Kit's fine, bike's fine although I had to squeeze the front wheel between my knees to tweak the stem and aim of the front tire. I had to skew and askewed stem.  By that point though, I was close to the race finish line but the ceremonial finish line was 5 miles away back in Gunnison.  I cross the finish line.  People are cheering and I'm thinking I just finished the hardest marathon mountain biking event bar none.  Endorphins, endocannabinoids, and endocrinologists are cheering and being released next to me and in me.  Never in my life have I witnessed so many endocrinologists racing.

Race notes.

Spectators were friendly and encouraging.  The Skull Pass volunteers were angels and complete class.  On my second lap, my chain was so dry it was making all manner of noises that once my brain was super sensitive to the topography and was talking to phantom spectators, that chain chirping was driving me absolutely nutty!  The Skull Pass volunteers lubed my chain (easy there, don't get fresh!).  What a well run event.  Kudos to the sponsors and organizers!  My hardtail, Penelope, was awesome. All over the course, there were people fixing flats but my Stans on my Mavic CrossMax's held (lest my tired got sliced, but thankfully it didn't).  

Felt that 30 psi was too squishy on my tubeless, so I pumped it up to 40 at one of the aid stations.  Ahh, felt better.  Felt like running on tubulars now.

Filled up my Growler but it was flat after a day of traveling back to Denver.  My new SUV got 24.9 mpg even with wind and two bikes up top.

 Looking forward to doing this again.

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